This week in Alexandria Township, New Jersey a group of committed anti-Islamic parents are hoping to save a 6th grade class from a history lesson about Islam. In fact one of the thirty parents involved in this movement called for the textbook being used for the lesson to be banned.
Well that caught my attention so I looked up the textbook in question. It is from the History Alive series. The grade 6 text – The Medieval World and Beyond is available online where I found a red-hot controversy among the reviewers at Amazon as well about this text teaching the history of Islam.
It would appear that for some discerning textbook readers there can be no historical, neutral or positive presentation of the Muslim faith which is really no surprise. However the assertion and assumption that we all hold this same prejudice and the resulting hostilities is somewhat disturbing among the comments of Amazon reviewers. When will I learn not to read through the comment section when I can already predict what I will find there?
But I digress, let’s go back to the New Jersey community where according to this local article on the current situation:
The controversy over the textbook grew out of concerns expressed by some parents about a class project. Students were told to make a collage of images dealing with Islam in America.
The textbook in question — part of the “History Alive!” series — was selected, in part, for how it incorporates various learning strategies, Superintendent Matthew Jennings said. He stressed the textbook is only one resource that teachers will use to educate students.
But according to the parents concerned with Islamic indoctrination, this is a resource they want no part of:
Many of the latter complained that the book is inaccurate and is politically correct about Muslims. For example, said Mary Beth Scheier, there was nothing in the book women being beaten and stoned in Muslim countries.
Well, I think I’ll let that thought speak for itself.
It would appear that the counterpoint to this woeful worry as presented by the authors of History Alive, as well as the educators in the community is a hope that knowledge of and understanding the ‘other’ might make the world a safer place for everyone:
Scott Saccal, school board vice president, said instruction isn’t indoctrination. The social studies teachers, “are trying to teach the social norm,” he said.
“Because Islam is growing every day, it’s important for students to know” what its adherents believe, said eighth-grade social studies teacher Thomas Scollan.
I can’t help but worry about the educational ground that can be lost in such controversies. While the district stood firm on the history curriculum in this discussion it seems such spectacles can easily move us toward a noncontroversial curriculum of less and less. Resulting in a student body more and more isolated from and ignorant of the world outside the window. So cheers to the board member and the superintendent for standing behind facts, information, and knowledge. And to the parent who said:
“Before you ban anything, read the book cover to cover.” It contains more about the impact of Christianity than anything else, she said. “If there is any hope for peace in the world, they (students) have to understand one another’s beliefs.”